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Lentil and Garlic Sausage Cassoulet

October 21, 2013

I made this cassoulet as part of my cooking binge last weekend before I got sick. I wonder if my mind had a premonition that my body would be out of commission for a while and got me all motivated to cook a million leftovers? I’ll never know for sure, but I’m so happy that I stocked up on chili, cassoulet, braised short ribs, and kielbasa with sauerkraut. It was the perfect amount of food to get me through until I was feeling marginally well enough to cook again.

I tried cassoulet for the first time during our trip to Paris last month, at a restaurant named Auberge Pyrénées Cévennes. Rather than being a typical small-portions-with-a-fancy-presentation city restaurant, it’s like a little bit of the country transplanted into the heart of the city. Cassoulet is an old French country dish with a texture partway between a casserole and a stew. It consists of white beans, pork sausage, duck confit, and whatever other meats the chef decides to add. It was delicious in that hearty rib-sticking way, so after I returned home and saw this lentil-based version in one of my older issues of Bon Appetit, I knew I had to try it.

The most difficult part was procuring a few of the ingredients. French lentils are no problem; Niblack foods near my job sells them and I usually have some on hand for a couple other recipes I like. The smoked garlic sausage and the slab bacon? I turned to the public market for help and initially wasn’t having much luck. All the sausages were raw, and I needed smoked. Finally I found a good quality kielbasa at Seven Bridges Farm: success! But I didn’t think I was going to be able to find unsliced bacon anywhere. The one meat seller told me that they could smoke a piece of pork belly and then have it available at the market next weekend, but I wanted to make the cassoulet the next day. Finally, in a little tiny Polish grocery stand, I spotted what looked like bacon. and it was unsliced! Perfect.

So this recipe starts out by cooking the whole slab of bacon in water for like an hour. Weird, but okay. Then that broth gets used to cook the lentils, and after that it also gets poured over the whole casserole before it bakes at the end. By the time the bacon and the lentils were cooked in it, it looked like totally gross dishwater or something, but turns out Bon Appetit knew what they were talking about because the whole casserole was infused with this awesome smoky-but-not-overpowering bacon-y flavor. Overall, this was probably one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten. There were a lot of steps and it took a whole afternoon to make, but it was so worth it. Try it; you’ll love it.

Lentil and sausage cassoulet

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1  1-pound 1½–2-inch-thick piece smoked skin-on slab bacon
  • 1  bay leaf
  • 2  medium onions, 1 whole, 1 minced
  • 2  whole cloves
  • 2  cups French green lentils
  • 2  tablespoons olive oil
  • 3  medium carrots, peeled, diced
  • 2  celery stalks, diced
  • Pinch  cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3  large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2  teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh sage
  • 2  teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh thyme
  • 12  ounces good-quality kielbasa sausage or other smoked garlic sausage, cut on a diagonal into 1/3-inch-thick slices
  • 4  cups breadcrumbs made from day-old white country bread
  • 1/4  cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted, or olive oil
  • 1  tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1  tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh chives

Directions

  1. Bring bacon and 8 cups water to boil in a large pot (bacon should be submerged). Attach bay leaf to whole onion by piercing it with cloves; add to pot. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer bacon, turning occasionally, until tender, about 1 hour. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl. Skim off fat from surface and discard.
  2. Combine strained broth and lentils in a large saucepan. If necessary, add more water to cover lentils by ½-inch. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until lentils are just tender but not mushy, 18 to 20 minutes. Drain lentils, reserving broth. Transfer lentils to a large bowl.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add minced onion, carrots, celery, and cayenne; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and lightly colored, 7 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, sage, and thyme; stir for 1 minute. Transfer to bowl with lentils.
  4. Cut skin from cooled bacon; discard skin. Cut bacon crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Add to lentils; toss mixture gently until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a 3-quart baking dish.
  5. Distribute sausage evenly over lentil mixture, gently pushing into lentils. Moisten lentils with reserved broth to barely cover (2–2½ cups; add water if needed).
  6. Combine breadcrumbs with butter in a medium bowl; season lightly with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Sprinkle evenly over lentil mixture; cover dish tightly with foil and place on a rimmed baking sheet.
  7. Bake cassoulet for 45 minutes. Remove foil; bake until breadcrumbs are golden and juices are simmering, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cassoulet rest for 15 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with parsley and chives.

One comment

  1. […] recipe definitely has a very different flavor profile than the lentil-based cassoulet I made over the summer. That version has no tomatoes, instead including carrots and celery as a […]



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